China hopes Maldives can itself resolve crisis, raises travel alert level
Beijing: China on Tuesday expressed hope that the Maldivian government and the opposition parties have the wisdom to resolve the political crisis on their own.
At the same time, it also raised the level of travel alert it issued on Monday, asking its citizens to cancel their plans to go to the Maldives during the spring festival holidays beginning from next week.
The Indian Ocean archipelago nation has plunged into crisis, with the government led by President Abdulla Yameen imposing a state of emergency for 15 days and arresting Supreme Court judges who ordered the release of leaders of the main opposition party.
The Army has also arrested former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom, an estranged half-brother of Yameen, has sided with the opposition led-by former President Mohammad Nasheed, who is living in exile.
China, which did not even have its embassy in the Maldives until 2011, has expanded interests in the nation strategically located in the Indian Ocean.
"Beijing is watching the developments in the Maldives closely."
"We hope relevant parties can properly resolve the differences through dialogue and consultation and restore normal order as soon as possible and maintain national and social stability," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
"We believe the Maldives government and political parties have the wisdom and the capability to deal with the current situation on their own," he added.
"We also require the Maldives to take effective measures to earnestly protect the security of the Chinese people, institutions and cooperation projects in the Maldives."
In 2017, Maldives became the second country after Pakistan to sign a free trade agreement with China.
The Yameen government rushed through the pact in the country's parliament, triggering concerns in the opposition party and India, which fears its influence will further erode in the nation.
India's sway has been on the wane in the Maldives after Nasheed -- the country's first democratically elected President and perceived as close to New Delhi -- was ousted in a coup in 2012.
Besides the pact, Yameen approved China's Belt and Road project, a network of highways, railways, sea lanes and ports that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe.
The Maldives, made up of atolls and islands, sits on the international sea lanes of the Indian Ocean where China is seeking to increase its influence. China is funding and building mega infrastructure projects, including the Friendship Bridge linking Male to Hulhule Island and a 1,000-apartment block.
China, which has already replaced Europe as the largest tourist provider to the Maldives, now cautioned citizens from visiting it presently.
"In the light of the latest situation in the Maldive Chinese Foreign Ministry adjusted the security alert level and asked the Chinese citizens to closely follow the local situation and not to travel to the Maldives," Geng said.
"If they have plans to go to the Maldives we advise them to cancel it."